Sam Ward was England’s hero as they recorded their first win of the Hockey World League Finals thanks to a confidence-boosting performance against hosts India.
Rio 2016 Olympian Ward scored his second of the game with three minutes left on the clock to edge out India 3-2 as England made amends for their opening defeat to Germany.
England had held an initial two-goal lead after early strikes from David Goodfield and Ward but India looked to have completed a brilliant comeback as they scored twice in the final quarter.
But Ward’s second put the game to bed in the dying stages, and with England welcoming back Brendan Creed and Harry Martin from illness, the 26-year-old insists the only way is up from now on.
“It helped having a few more players,” said Ward.
“Obviously yesterday we were three down so having them back made a big difference.
“We had to grind them down and it was fantastic to get the result.”
Both teams had plenty of opportunities to open the scoring, with Akashdeep Singh forcing Harry Gibson into a good save within two minutes before Goodfield sent a chance wide at the other end.
In the 25th minute, Mark Gleghorne’s penalty corner – England’s first of the tournament – amounted to nothing but it wasn’t long before they took the lead when Goodfield’s cross was diverted in by Indian goalkeeper Suraj Karkera.
Just minutes before the end of the third quarter, Ward scored his 20th goal in an England shirt to double their lead, sliding the ball past Karkera.
But at the start of the final quarter, Singh nudged a goal for India past George Pinner, before Rupinder Singh restored parity just minutes later with a flick between Pinner and Barry Middleton.
Both teams continued to press for the winner as time ticked down and it was England who capitalised on their opportunities, Ward receiving an intelligent pass from David Condon before making space to unleash an unstoppable effort home.